I like to consider myself a quinoa expert. I have cooked a lot of it for my cookbook. Small amounts, or lots at once, with spices and greens, or without—I’ve done it all. The standard quinoa cooking method started failing me early on. My quinoa was mushy and overdone, every time, and it was driving me nuts.
I tried using slightly less water than usual, which has been recommended elsewhere. It helped a little sometimes, but other times, I had to add more and more water while the quinoa was cooking. Then, the dry quinoa soaked up way too much of the dressing I added later.
At some point, I wondered, why do all the quinoa recipes suggest covering the quinoa while cooking? My quinoa was all overcooked and mushy, so covering it seemed like the last thing I should do.
Bingo! For perfectly fluffy quinoa, use twice as much water as quinoa, as usual, then cook, uncovered, until the quinoa has absorbed all the water. Smaller amounts of quinoa require less time, naturally.
Once the water is all absorbed, remove the pot from heat, cover it and let the quinoa steam for 5 minutes. That’s when the quinoa pops open into fluffy quinoa perfection, and that is how to cook quinoa properly. I’ve gotten quite a few questions from you guys about how to avoid mushy quinoa, so I just had to share. I typed up the full recipe and instructions for you below.
Scroll down for 10 of my favorite quinoa recipes, and for even more quinoa inspiration, you can view all of my quinoa recipes here.
- 1 part uncooked quinoa (e.g. 1 cup quinoa—any color will do—you will end up with three times as much cooked quinoa as dry)
- 2 parts water (e.g. 2 cups water)
- Salt, to taste (around 1/4 teaspoon salt per cup of quinoa)
- Rinse the quinoa: Pour the quinoa into a fine mesh colander and rinse under running water for at least 30 seconds. Drain well. This step removes any bitterness on the outside of the quinoa (caused by naturally occurring saponins).
- Combine the rinsed quinoa and water in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then decrease the heat a bit to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water, about 10 to 20 minutes (small amounts of quinoa will be ready closer to 10 minutes; larger amounts between 15 to 20). Reduce heat as time goes on to maintain a gentle simmer.
- Remove the pot from heat, cover, and let the quinoa steam for 5 minutes. This step gives the quinoa time to pop open into little curlicues, so it's nice and fluffy. Remove the lid and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Season with salt, to taste, unless you’re proceeding with another recipe as written.
Storage suggestions: Leftover quinoa keeps well, refrigerated, for 4 to 5 days. Make sure it has cooled to room temperature before covering and chilling.
Wait, what is quinoa?
In case you haven’t encountered quinoa yet, it is a pseudocereal that grows near the Andes in South America. By pseudocereal, I mean that it is grain-like, but it’s technically not a grass like wheat. Quinoa is pronounced KEEN-wah, although my dad likes to tease me by calling it queh-NO-ah.
Quinoa is very nutritious—it’s full of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals, including manganese, magnesium and folate. Quinoa’s health benefits are really too long to list here, but the key point is that quinoa is remarkably dense in nutrients, and worth including in your diet.
You can buy quinoa in most grocery stores these days, usually in the health section or near the rice. You can also buy quinoa online at Amazon.
10 Favorite Quinoa recipes
“I have made this salad twice in a week it is that good – easy and delicious!” – Terri
“This was so good! I’ve been trying to find one dish recipes that can also feed baby and this was perfect! I was almost too lazy to make the breadcrumbs but I’m so glad I did because it was simple and and so worth it! I also used a bit of cauliflower because I had it and it was good in there too. I think I’m going to make this again and bring it to Easter! It’s a perfect healthier version of a classic!” – Stephanie
“This is one of my favorite dishes ever! Followed the instructions (first time ever was not inspired to change anything) and enjoyed a yummy dinner with my partner, twice now. He loved it as well! Thanks for sharing and good luck! :)” – Dessi
“THE best salad ever! My husband and I absolutely love it! I’m sharing with my family and friends!” – Jacqueline
“I just found this recipe via pinterest! I made the soup yesterday and I absolutely love it!! Never thought of quinoa in soup but this makes so much sense! I am always looking for ways to add protein without adding meat so this is great and my whole family loves it! (I’m a college student by the way, not a mom, in case you couldn’t tell. lol) This soup is great for all ages!!” – Maya
“We made this for dinner 2 hours ago and can’t stop talking about it! OMG! It was so delicious and full of flavor and it was easy to make. My kids loved it, too. We already can’t wait to make it again :) thank you so much!” – Tiffany
“Made this for a dinner last night; it probably received the most compliments! And I’m having the leftovers for lunch today – great recipe :-)” – Nkem
“Made this last night; first time cooking with quinoa, and it turned out great! Added in the chickpeas, and didn’t have ground ginger so subbed in mixed spice. Will be making again, for sure; regularly, most likely. Thank you for sharing the recipe!” – Jamie
“Three of us polished off this recipe in one sitting. It was wonderful! Tangy, sweet and crunchy, thanks to the almonds. It was also so easy to make. Thank you!” – Leah
“Great recipe! I used heirloom tomatoes which were on sale which worked really well. And the leftover quinoa stuffing for lunch was a amazing!” – Rachel
More resources you might appreciate: 13 make-ahead breakfast recipes, 16 recipes that pack well for lunch and 20 simple weeknight dinners. You can shop my essential kitchen equipment here. Don’t forget to follow us on Pinterest for a steady stream of recipe inspiration!